Behind The Kitchen Door
by ROC-United Co-Founder Saru Jayaraman
(with foreward by Fast Food Nation’s Eric Schlosser)
“A must-read for anyone who eats at restaurants.”
– Danny Glover (actor, producer, and cofounder of Louverture Films)
“Our food comes at great expense to the workers who provide it. ‘The biggest workforce in America can’t put food on the table except when they go to work,’ says Saru Jayaraman, Co- Founder of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United. Many people in the nascent food movement and in the broader ‘foodie’ set know our farmers’ (and their kids’) names and what their animals eat. We practically worship chefs, and the damage done to land, air, and water by high-tech ag is—correctly—a constant concern. Yet though you can’t be a card-carrying foodie if you don’t know the provenance of your heirloom tomato, you apparently can be one if you don’t know how the members of your wait staff are treated.”
- Mark Bittman (NYTimes Columnist, American food journalist and author)
Check out any of our our 3 trailers for Behind the Kitchen Door below!
How do restaurant workers live on some of the lowest wages in America? And how do poor working conditions–discriminatory labor practices, exploitation, and unsanitary kitchens–affect the meals that arrive at our restaurant tables? Saru Jayaraman, who launched the national restaurant workers’ organization Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, sets out to answer these questions by following the lives of restaurant workers in New York City, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Miami, Detroit, and New Orleans.
Blending personal narrative and investigative journalism, Jayaraman shows us that the quality of the food that arrives at our restaurant tables depends on more than the ingredients or their source. Our meals benefit from the attention and skill of the people who chop, grill, sauté, and serve. Behind the Kitchen Door is a groundbreaking exploration of the political, economic, and moral implications of dining out. Jayaraman focuses on the stories of individuals, like Daniel, who grew up on a farm in Ecuador and sought to improve the conditions for employees at Del Posto; the treatment of workers behind the scenes belied the high-toned Slow Food ethic on display in the front of the house.
Increasingly, Americans are choosing to dine at restaurants that offer organic, fair-trade, and free-range ingredients for reasons of both health and ethics. Yet few of these diners are aware of the working conditions at the restaurants themselves. But whether you eat haute cuisine or fast food, the well-being of restaurant workers is a pressing concern, affecting our health and safety, local economies, and the life of our communities. Highlighting the roles of the 10 million people, many immigrants, many people of color, who bring their passion, tenacity, and vision to the American dining experience, Jayaraman presents a bold agenda to raise the living standards of the nation’s second-largest private sector workforce and ensure that dining out is a positive experience on both sides of the kitchen door.